How Do I Create a Distressed Wood Finish?

Creating a distressed finish on wood items is not a difficult task to accomplish.

Distressed finishes allow the bottom paint color to show in the cracks of the paint.Distressed finishes allow the bottom paint color to show in the cracks of the paint.
You do not have to purchase expensive faux finishing kits from paint or home supply stores in order to obtain this look. Distressed wood has the appearance of an old, well-loved piece and gives a vintage or antique look to the item. This type of decor works well in homes that have an old-fashioned style of decor, such as country, rustic and shabby chic, or to set it alongside other antique pieces.

Dust the wood item well. This allows the paint to adhere better to the wood surface.

Pick the bottom coat of the paint. Remember that this color will show through the top coat of paint once the distressed look is completed.

Paint the wood item with the base coat of paint. Acrylic paints are typically less expensive than latex paints, and they dry quicker, but either type works well. Allow the paint to dry on the wood surface.

Spread a layer of regular school glue onto the dry paint with a foam brush or a clean paintbrush. Do not allow the school glue to dry. You must work quickly to apply the second coat of paint while the glue is still tacky.

Apply the second color of paint to the still-wet surface. Spread it evenly over the wood. The distressed look occurs while the glue and paint are drying.

Allow the wood item to thoroughly dry.

Cover the wood item with another coat of glue. This helps give it a glossy finish. It also seals and protects the distressed finish. Allow it to dry completely before using the wood item.

Things You Will Need

  • Dusting tool or soft cloth
  • Two colors of latex or acrylic paint
  • Regular school glue
  • Paintbrushes or foam brushes


  • Thin coats of glue result in tiny hairline cracks in the finish. A thicker coat of glue creates larger cracks. Either way is acceptable, depending on the look you desire.
  • Create funky shabby chic items by selecting a base coat of pale blue, pink or another pastel color. Cover it with an off-white top coat after spreading the glue. Using a black base coat and a light brown coat gives the item more of a traditional look. The color combinations are limited only to your imagination.


About the Author

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.